November 2013 Archives

thanksgiving meets michigan week

Normally I take this week off because, well, I get like 12 hits. But I'm coming out of semi-retirement to post this link.

Go Bucks!

my mother was right. i am special.

Like yourself, I despise how instant cocoa mix lumps up. No matter how hot the water, no matter how vigorously stirred, those lumps bubble up like so much flotsam. This morning, clearly possessing no other problems, I decided to remedy this once and for all. I dare say no woman would have tried this technique, for reasons that will be clear in the next sentence.

Reaching around my immersible blender, I grabbed a metal martini shaker.

I filled the shaker with boiling water, added the cocoa, and affixed the shaker's top. Now, I know what you're thinking. I thought it too. Which is why I was putting a silicone pot holder on my hand when the steam inside the martini shaker built up sufficient pressure to blow the lid and lacerate the air in all directions with boiling chocolate napalm.

Still hurts.

screw you, phillip

Prior to Phillip's birth, there were just screwdrivers. Then Phillip came along and invented the wrong kind of screwdriver. I've been blaming him for all manner of stupid crap ever since. The strangulating seat belt that tightens up every time you twitch? Phillip did it. The splashless gas pump that you have to hold the whole time? Task-stopping error messages shoved to the edge of the screen where you won't notice them? Recipes with 600-word steps that delve into the entire prehistory of brining? Phillip, Phillip, Phillip.

Last night, it was the rounded casing of my old PS3, which makes it impossible to stack anything in my AV cabinet without the aid of velcro. So atop my component stack is a gleaming, rounded PS3 wallpapered in velcro, with modems and routers and a burglar alarms randomly stuck to it like ornaments in a Christmas tree. Thanks, Phillip.

This morning, it's all of the message boxes in my life. No, Phillip, I don't want to download your bloody app. No, you irredeemable fucker, I still don't want to allow your app to monitor my location. And I won't tomorrow or the next day, either. Likewise, I don't want to give PayPal, Google+, and Facebook access to the GPS-tracker in my pocket, nor the contact information for everyone I know.

Phillip, you seriously need to step off. It used to be just an extra trip to the toolbox, but now you want my soul.

x and xi supreme moments in whiteness awards

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"My God," I thought in 1985 when I first saw the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle. "I am witnessing a bona fide miracle: something worse than actual rap music."

"My God," I thought this morning when I first saw the Super Broker Shuffle. "I am witnessing a bona fide miracle: something worse than the original Super Bowl Shuffle."

With all due respect to Tom Cruise's dancing, this may well be the whitest thing I have ever seen.

ix supreme moments in whiteness award

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The 29 Whitest Family Photos of All Time

I find these mostly hilarious, in a self-loathing sort of way. But the anatomically correct nude costumes are disturbing, and the family stacked naked on one another like firewood makes me want to claw my eye-sockets empty.


homophobic physics humor

Yesterday, gay buddy Mike (1, 2) was talking at length, far too much length, about his love of male body parts.

"Whereas I think about male body parts about as much as I think about neutrinos," I shrugged.

"Because they're constantly penetrating your body, unnoticed?"

the dave effect

I used to work at Encarta, Microsoft's disc-based encyclopedia that was utterly destroyed by the advent of the Internet. For two years, I documented how to use a product that was excruciatingly easy to use. Worse than that, I worked for a manager, so two of us were being paid to document a product that's slightly less difficult to intuit than a kitchen faucet. For two years, I waited for them to discover the absurdity of this and fire us. Finally, I got bored and quit.

I shared an office with Dave, a content editor. That means he edited the actual encyclopedia content and worked with subject matter experts. Our jobs and friends didn't overlap, but proximity being the social elixir that it is, we bitched about our worlds to one another. And he had to put up with a ceaseless parade of programmers, testers and marketers coming into the office to keep me informed about something. And girls. Lots of girls. I was dating a lot, and I was fishing the company pier.

The content editors were barely compensated slaves, pressured into working unbilled hours. The chief mechanism of this coercion was the word-count chart posted in the hallway. You could see how many words people edited in a given month—and where they ranked relative to one another. People weren't allowed to work overtime, so naturally, some worked for free to buttress their numbers, which pretty much meant everyone had to work for free if they wanted to keep their jobs. But I digress.

About a month after I left that job, I started hearing howls of laughter from my former colleagues. The chart had just been posted. Dave's production hadn't doubled. Nor tripled. Nor even quintupled. As a result of my leaving, his productivity had shot up 1200%.

"Remember the Dave effect?" I was reminded last week, when I was blathering on about some girl and preventing Katrina from working.

Subtle.


frost warning

Nearly as soon as I set foot in Atlanta, I was in a lengthy conversation with a random stranger. She was a middle-aged woman working the concession stand of a high-school game, and I was her customer. She raved about my voice, asked me if I do radio (code for "I've seen less homely yak butt"), asked me where I'm from, why I was there. She showed more interest in me than have the sum of all strangers in Seattle over the past four years.

It was uncomfortable. I used to be at ease around the socially healthy, but now I am unpracticed and awkward. I have become more like the very people I despise, and I hate myself for that. As the weekend passed and I dealt with more strangers, I loosened up. Perhaps I am not permanently damaged.

I marveled at the easy interactions in airports, stores, games and sidewalks—people making eye contact and nodding, saying "excuse me" unnecessarily. Just to be courteous! Imagine! Just to acknowledge they had entered the space of another human being. I marveled at how jarring I found it.

As I boarded my return flight to Seattle and surveyed the ancient plane in which I would be flying the next four hours, I was disappointed. "I flew the new Airbus here," I said to my seat-mate. "It was amazing. Have you ever?" She averted her eyes and pretended not to have heard me, despite having looked directly at my yak-homely face when I was talking to her.

Idiot! I thought. You're on a plane to Seattle. Just stare straight ahead for four hours and pretend you're alone in the universe.

My first stop when home was the grocery store. I'd been to several over the last couple days, and the contrast was amazing. Those of you who live anywhere but Seattle, you know how when you say "excuse me," even when the other person is at fault, they acknowledge it with a "No problem," "My bad," or a polite grunt? Yeah. We don't do that here. We move mountains of plausibility to pretend we don't notice anyone else.

As I left the parking lot, pedestrians walked in front of my car, exercising their right of way but nonetheless making me brake. They stared straight ahead, pretending to have never seen me, to have never made the decision to make me brake. God forbid they burn a calorie acknowledging the deference of another human being. Next thing you know, that person will be asking them how their day is going, and we can't have that.

football weekend '13 rollup

I don't know if anyone even likes these posts, but they're useful to helping me remember details later, so here we go.

Last Friday, I met Bubba in Atlanta. Now that the Seahawks are world-beaters, he didn't feel the need to put on a different jersey in every town. His whole "love the one you're with" philosophy has been supplanted by true love. He and the Seahawks are now a "we," at least until Russell Wilson is broken in two. Then, I suspect, Bubba will want to see other people.

Friday night kicked off with a blowout high school game, as Catholic high school Marist crushed Carver. Surprises: I finally found a seat I hate worse than aluminum bleachers (concrete); this teensy Atlanta high school's fight song is Ohio State's alma mater; Carver, whose punter seldom kicked the ball more than 10 yards, was somehow 7-2; a uniformed football player singing the national anthem; and zero students in the stands. I swear every student at Marist is in the band or on the team. Not a surprise: the Marist crowd was almost all white, and the Carver crowd was entirely black. Welcome back to the South. I wanted to move to the visitors' stands, where they were having more fun losing than the home crowd was having winning, but native son Bubba would have none of it. I deferred to his judgement.

Of the Highland Inn, I will only remember this step out of the bathroom. Those are six-inch tiles. My fall was spectacular.

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Saturday, we drove to Tuscaloosa for this week's Game of the Century, LSU at Alabama. Another blowout. Alabama has the best program, players and coach in college football, and their fans are loud indeed. That said, what a crushing disappointment the environment was. There were only pockets of tailgating. There were literally miles of roadside booths selling nearly identical merchandise. We looked for hours for something to do and found nothing. At the four hour mark, we actually discussed which patch of grass we would like to sit upon to kill more time. Once in the stadium, I was only slightly less disappointed. For a program of such rich history, Alabama has no apparent traditions. They have little but the team. Instead of chants or rituals or the band playing, they blare music over the PA during gaps in action. In other words, it's as generic and corporate and, yes, deathly dull as an NFL game. But oh, those fans. What a bunch of spoiled douchebags. Their sneering disdain extends even to their own players, especially quarterback AJ McCarron. The kid has won back to back championships and is cruising easily to an unprecedented third. He was a nearly perfect 14/20 with three TDs and no picks. And when he threw each of his six incompletions, the crowd around us erupted with rage, cursing his insolent imperfection. Bubba and I just stared at one another in complete disbelief. The highlight for me was while (what else?) looking at merchandise, when I came upon the below t-shirt. Note that perpetually overrated #2 Oregon had been upset a mere 30 hours before.

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Oh yeah. The miniskirt/do-me-boots combination prevalent in Tuscaloosa among women of all ages was a highlight, too. As was the local radio program which conceded that Nick Saban "might find Austin a more desirable place to live than Tuscaloosa." Yeah, and I might prefer the taste of peanut butter to that of taxi carpeting.

On Sunday, we zipped to Atlanta for the Seahawks/Falcons game. Boy, do I love the Georgia Dome. What a great facility. Ample footroom, short rows, great sightlines, restaurants with great views of the field, close action. The Falcons employ every gimmick imaginable to attract fans, too, from door prizes to parachuting t-shirts to kiss cams. It doesn't help. For this playoff rematch, the stadium was a third empty, and those fans were stunningly quiet. I can't recall ever seeing such utterly listless fans. No one even gave Bubba crap about his Seahawks jersey. I don't think anyone noticed or cared. The Seahawks mercifully crushed the Falcons, so we left early to catch our plane to New Orleans for the game that night.

Oh, Delta airlines, my arch-nemesis, fuck you also. I would be more understanding about your needing to switch out my malfunctioning plane if the adjacent gate's plane wasn't being switched out too. Have you ever considered, like, maintenance?

We folded our legs into the two inches of legroom beneath our ass-decimating seats just before halftime, right when the Saints blew out the game. Dallas was so unremarkable as to be barely present in my memory. They were cannon fodder. So yes, four games, four massive blowouts. That was unfortunate. As for the Superdome, this was my second and hopefully last visit. The fans are boisterous and fun and incredibly loud, but oh, that building. When I first saw post-hurricane reports about mass-defecation and disease in the Superdome, my reaction was "You can't really blame them. I don't know what else the place is good for." What a horrible stadium. Physically painful seats, most of them very far from the sideline. A single entrance. No mass-transit solutions. Cabs won't even go near the place, despite the bullshit PA announcements that they're waiting on Poydras Street. When? Wednesday?

We spent Monday in Last Month's Maxipad, or "Nawlins" to some. The cuisine and live music were typically sublime, the people perfectly segregated by race, and the smell is only now dissipating from my lung cells. For all the flying and driving and walking and money, the highlight of the entire trip was simply listening to the tight jazz of The Yisrael Trio at Mojitos Monday night. Oh, and the Miami @ Tampa game I refused to go to because the teams both stink? A 22-19 squeaker.

I leave you with the state of my big toe Monday night. It was a joy to walk 18 miles on.

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documenting blowout weekend can wait

I'm back from Football Weekend, and I have conflicting interests this morning. I want to insult Seattle, Atlanta, Tuscaloosa and New Orleans, but I also want to get unburied in email. Since the former task makes me nothing and the latter includes paying myself, I choose the latter.

In the meantime, hell yes. It's about time someone built this.

ups, fedex, and JWs, oh my

In my 11 years in Metamuville, I've gotten zero trick-or treaters and 22 visits from the Jehovah's Witnesses. I know this because, like family bitching about one another, they show up every six months precisely. Doubtlessly Metamuville is targeted because of all the old farts running out the clock.

So when it became necessary to hang a "don't knock" sign outside my door—my dogs are constantly being set off during work meetings—I also fired a warning shot.

Place your bets now. Will they be deterred by either sentence?

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cutoff man

I am, or at least I was, a decent athlete. Skill-wise, I'm capable but nothing special, mostly because I'm slower than election season. Football, basketball, soccer, racquetball, volleyball...I played them all and won my share.

But oh, baseball. My nemesis.

Yeah, I'm slow. I have a pansy throwing arm. I somehow manage to hit to the shortstop no matter how I change my stance, including batting left-handed. One time my streak was something like 20 at-bats in a row hit to the shortstop. He was actually visibly agitated when I stepped up to the plate. I don't know what percentage of the time I've been on base were due to shortstop error, but if someone told me it was in the 90s, I wouldn't argue. Clearly, this pattern sucks in games. But man, I'm awesome to have around during fielding practice.

As I alluded last week, my biggest liability is not understanding the nuances of the game, at least not without thinking it through. As a kid, I played baseball only in gym class, and I never watched it on TV. Nothing is instinctive. So when I'm fielding a ball, I have to either 1) pause for 20 seconds and think through my options or 2) throw it and take my medicine. Both choices have a tendency to enrage teammates and delight opponents.

"AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHH!" shrieks every teammate I've ever had, as soon as the ball leaves my hand.

Tennis, anyone?

a secret handshake

Let's say you've logged 20 years as an accountant. How much patience would you have with a GED-wielding 24 year-old who, upon encountering you, presumes you cannot do basic arithmetic, and he cannot be dissuaded from condescendingly walking you through it, even after you smack him over the head with the Arzelà–Ascoli theorem?

This is my feeling every time I have to report that my Internet is down.

"Hi, I'd like to report that I've lost Internet connectivity. I've disconnected all routers and boxes, restarted the modem by unplugging it for 30 seconds, and tested it using a laptop and an Ethernet cable. The Online light refuses to blink."

(A child reads from a script)

"Sigh. Yes, the modem is plugged in. Seriously, I have 20 years in techn—"

(Child speaks)

"Sigh. Yes, as I said, I'm hard-wired into it."

(Child speaks)

"Yes, goddamit, I just told you I reset it by unplugging it for 30 seconds. And in answer to the next question in your scri—"

(Child speaks)

"—pt YES I UNPLUGGED ALL MY OTHER DEVICES! JESUS CHRIST!"

(Child speaks)

(Whimpering now) "No. Like I said. The Online light is off."

(Child asks about the hard-wiring again)

"Seriously, is your mommy or daddy there?"

What I need, I've decided, is a secret handshake that identifies myself as someone who actually knows when his Internet is down and would not, in fact, inflict vacuous children upon himself unless he had exhausted all other recourse.

Or a code word. Yeah, a code word!

"Hi, I'd like to report that I've lost Internet connectivity. Oh, and...kompetentaj."

(Automated voice of Morgan Freeman) "Identity confirmed. We'll send someone right out."

reader mail: the hack tax

Several readers wrote to ask about "Outside of sports, I don't start altercations." I suppose that was a tease, so here's more detail: inside of sports, I start altercations.

Blessed with a body type that's been described on the basketball court as "a barely moving washing machine," I have never been the star of any team. I have, however, been the player most likely to be remembered. I'm a hack. A goon. An enforcer. The only advantage I have in athletics is a low center of gravity and freakishly strong thighs, and I use them to equalize the players with actual talent.

The greatest non-older-brother beating I ever took in my life was on a baseball diamond. It was not for the usual reason, that being me throwing to the wrong base or cutoff man. No, this was because I was a baserunner when there was a close play at home plate. "Finally, it's John's time to shine!" I thought as I plowed into the catcher. I hit him so hard, he flew several feet before his body started its descent toward the ground.

And he got up and beat the crap out of me. Oh, how he beat me. I remember lying on the ground with him straddling me, pummeling my face from all directions with a speed I could not even fathom. It was like he had four fists. He hit my eyes and nose and mouth and then worked the eyes again. I was seeing vibrant splotches of color where there was none. Stunned and hopelessly out of my league, I pretty much just lay there and took the beating until friends pulled him off me eight days later. Dignity torn and mangled, I hobbled off to the bench.

And then two innings later, there was another close play at the plate and I plowed into him again, just as hard. And he pummeled me even worse.

I'd like to say I did it out of courage, or sticking up for myself, or revenge, but the truth is I gave it no thought at all. I was as surprised as anyone. I found myself hitting him and thinking "Uh oh. This is really gonna cost me."

It's the price one pays for being me, I guess. The Hack Tax.

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